US divided on race issues – study finds
A new study on perceptions of racism in the US has found Americans are divided over whether racial discrimination is scourge that is overlooked or people see it where it doesn’t exist.
To mark that 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Black Americans’ civil rights led by Martin Luther King, the Washington-based think tank the Pew Research Center surveyed more than 5000 Americans about racial discrimination today.
Fifty-three per cent of respondents said people not seeing racial discrimination where it really does exist is the bigger problem and 45 per cent said people seeing racial discrimination where it really doesn’t exist as the larger issue.
Views on the issue of racism have changed in recent years, according to the research. In 2019, 57 per cent said people overlooking racial discrimination was the bigger problem, while 42 per cent pointed to people seeing it where it really didn’t exist. That gap has narrowed from 15 to 8 percentage points.
Americans’ current views on this question also differ greatly by race and ethnicity.
Eighty-eight per cent of Black adults say people overlooking discrimination is the bigger problem. Smaller majorities of Asian (66 per cent) and Hispanic (58 per cent) adults say the same, as do 45 per cent of White adults.
Views also differ through partisanship with 80 per cent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying people not seeing racial discrimination where it does exist is the larger issue.
But about three-quarters (74 per cent) of Republicans and Republican leaners give the opposite answer.
The Pew Center has also surveyed Americans on the views of the march and the legacy of Dr King.
On August 28, 1963, about 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr gave his historic ‘I have a dream’ speech advocating for economic and civil rights for Black Americans.
The survey found most Americans say Dr King has had a positive impact on the country, with 47 per cent saying he has had a ‘very’ positive impact. Fewer (38 per cent) say their own views on racial equality have been influenced by King’s legacy a great deal or a fair amount.
Sixty per cent of Americans say they have heard or read a great deal or a fair amount about King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Black adults are the most likely to say this at 80 per cent, compared with 60 per cent of White adults, 49 per cent of Hispanic adults and 41 per cent of Asian adults.
Fifty-two per cent of Americans say there has been a great deal or a fair amount of progress on racial equality in the last 60 years. A third say there’s been some progress and 15 per cent say there has been not much or no progress at all.
Still, more say efforts to ensure equality for all, regardless of race or ethnicity, haven’t gone far enough (52 per cent) than say they have gone too far (20 per cent) or been about right (27 per cent).
Most people (58 per cent) of those who say efforts to ensure equality haven’t gone far enough think it’s unlikely that there will be racial equality in their lifetime.
Those who say efforts have been about right are more optimistic. Within this group, 39 per cent say racial equality is extremely or very likely in their lifetime, while 36 per cent say it is somewhat likely and 24 per cent say it’s not too or not at all likely.
Many people who say efforts to ensure racial equality ‘haven’t gone far enough’ say several systems need to be completely rebuilt to ensure equality. The prison system is at the top of the list, with 44 per cent in this group saying it needs to be completely rebuilt. More than a third say the same about policing (38 per cent) and the political system (37 per cent).
The researchers say the survey findings often differ by race, ethnicity and partisanship – and in some cases also by age and education.
For example, 59 per cent of Black Americans say their personal views on racial equality have been influenced by Martin Luther King Jr a great deal or a fair amount. Smaller numbers of Hispanic (38 per cent), White (34 per cent) and Asian (34 per cent) Americans say the same.
Adults aged 65 and older and those with at least a bachelor’s degree are more likely than younger adults and those with less education to be highly familiar with King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Fifty-eight per cent5 of White adults say there has been a great deal or a fair amount of progress on racial equality in the last 60 years. This compares with 47 per cent of Asian adults, 45 per cent of Hispanic adults and 30 per cent of Black adults.
Republicans and those who lean Republican (67 per cent) are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners (38 per cent) to say this.
Eighty-three per cent of Black adults say efforts to ensure equality for all, regardless of race and ethnicity, haven’t gone far enough. This is larger than the shares of Hispanic (58 per cent), Asian (55 per cent) and White (44 per cent) adults who say the same.
Most Democrats (78 per cent) say these efforts haven’t gone far enough, compared with 24 per cent of Republicans. And 37 per cent of Republicans say these efforts have gone ‘too far’.
Black Americans, Democrats and adults younger than 30 who say efforts to ensure racial equality ‘haven’t gone far enough’ are among the most likely to say several systems, ranging from the economic system to the prison system, need to be completely rebuilt to ensure equality.
Majorities of Republicans across age groups say people seeing racial discrimination where it doesn’t exist is the larger issue. But Republicans ages 50 and older are more likely than those under 50 to say this (78 per cent vs. 68 per cent).
Among Democrats, age differences aren’t as large, but there are differences by race and ethnicity. Hispanic Democrats are the most likely to say people seeing discrimination where it doesn’t exist is the bigger problem. Some 29 per cent say this, compared with 20 per cent of Asian Democrats, 19 per cent of White Democrats and 8 per cent of Black Democrats.